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we need something here He's kept me up till 5. He wakes me up at 8:30 to go for a walk. I make a cup of tea and go out on the porch. Wind sways the redwood branches and the tops of the bull pines. I'm 51 years old. I have dark circles under my eyes. My back hurts.

"What IS this? You weren't even into women. You want something. What?"

"You know what. I want you to deal with that poem. 'The Tortured Heart.'"
"I can't. I just can't."
"Why did you ask if you didn't want to know?"
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The prison at Mazas
August, 1870: Napoléon III has declared war on Germany. The Germans invade the Ardennes and lay seige to Paris.
     Rimbaud is desperate to get away from his mother.He sells his watch and runs away to the city. The gendarmes stop him getting off the train: his ticket is thirteen francs short. He's fifteen, claims to be seventeen, looks twelve. They send him to Mazas prison.

     Ten nights alone in a tiny cell. His high-school teacher, Georges Izambard, sends the money and gets him released.

     A socialist government is elected: the Commune. Rimbaud writes

What do we care, my heart, for the sheets of blood
And coals, a thousand murders, and the long cries
Of rage, sobs of all hell overturning
All order; and the north wind blowing over the debris;

And all vengeance? Nothing!... - Nonetheless
We want it! Industrialists, princes, senates,
Perish! Down with power, justice, history!
That much you owe us. Blood! Blood! the golden flame!

click to read the poem
Paris, 1871
Paris in 1870, after invasion by the Germans and the suppression of the Commune
     The Imperial forces at Versailles suppress the new government, killing and imprisoning thousands of women and men.
     "Crazy anger drives me toward the battle of Paris, where so many workers are dying," writes Rimbaud. In the spring of 1871, he runs away again. He sleeps in doorways, under bridges, in barges on the banks of the river.
     "I see myself again, skin rotten with mud and sickness, hair and armpits full of worms, and in my heart much bigger worms, lying among strangers without age, without feeling..."
     -- from "A Season in Hell"
     He encounters, as Enid Starkie says, "hordes of disgusted demobilized soldiers, half-starved and ragged, the rogues and adventurers of every nationality who are always able, like carrion crows, to smell out a sick or dying body." Possibly he makes his way to the Babylone barracks, where the National Guard are quartered in defense of the government.

     Within a week, he walks home from Paris.

     What happened? He never says. But he sends Izambard the poem, "The Tortured Heart" as a first example of his voyance:

My sad heart drools at the poop,
My heart full of tobacco juice:
They squirt on it their jets of soup,
My sad heart drools at the poop:
Beneath the jeers of the troop
Who burst forth with a general laugh
My sad heart drools at the poop,
My heart full of tobacco juice...
click for the whole text of this poem
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Practical Alchemy
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     Holly Tannen teaches folklore and anthropology, and has lectured on contemporary magic at U.C. Berkeley and at Yale University. Her recordings include "Invocation", "Between the Worlds", and "Rime of the Ancient Matriarch"

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Michael Potts, webster updated 3 January 2002 : 00:32 Caspar (Pacific) time

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